VIU Milner Gardens and Woodland

Milner Story

Background of Milner Gardens & Woodland

Horatio "Ray" Milner was born in Sackville, New Brunswick in 1889. He attended Kings College, Nova Scotia and was graduated at age 20. He was called to the bar in 1911 after receiving a law degree from Dalhousie University. After serving in WWI, he was made Kings Counsel.

Ray Milner retired in 1969 at age 80 after an exceptional career. A renowned philanthropist and businessperson, he had been the chair and director of several companies as well as a partner in the law firm Milner and Steer. As one of his many achievements, Mr. Milner was a founding director of Canadian Utilities and was instrumental in the formation and growth of the company. He was made a companion of the Order of Canada in December, 1969. Three universities awarded him honorary doctorates.

The 28 hectare (70 acre) estate at Qualicum was Mr. Milner’s retreat from his busy business life in Alberta. He purchased the estate in 1937 and began to work on the garden with his first wife, Rina. Both loved the garden and forest. Sadly, however, Rina passed away in 1952. More extensive work on the 4 hectare (10 acre) garden portion of the estate was started in 1954 after Ray’s marriage to his second wife, Veronica. Veronica named the estate "Long Distance". In her words, "We called this house this name because it was so far away from my old home, and because the telephone was always ringing for him!"

Mrs. Veronica Milner was a fascinating person. Born of the British aristocracy, she was the widow of Desmond Fitzgerald, 28th Knight of Glin, County Limerick, Ireland. Her mother was a cousin of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Both Churchill and Mrs. Milner were descended from the First Duke of Marlborough, and thus were related to Diana, Princess of Wales. Indeed, the Prince and Princess of Wales visited the garden in 1986. Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip stayed at the estate for three days in October, 1987.

Mrs. Milner’s artist’s eye and horticultural expertise combined to shape the garden. She was an accomplished artist and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Art and Commerce. Her elegant pastel botanicals and rich oils cover the walls of the residence at Long Distance. Mrs. Milner was a member of the Founding Committee of the VanDusen Gardens in Vancouver, the University of Alberta Devonian Botanical Garden, the Royal Horticultural Society and a Fellow of the Garden Conservancy. She was also a member of the International Dendrology Society. The aims of this Society are "to promote the study of woody plants and shrubs, and to conserve and protect those that are rare and endangered." Mrs. Milner acquired many of the trees and shrubs at the estate when she accompanied her husband on his many business trips abroad.

The estate was acquired by Vancouver Island University in 1996. In May, 1996, the garden was dedicated as "The Milner Gardens" in recognition of Ray and Veronica Milner. VIU’s goal is to maintain the garden in perpetuity for education and the community’s benefit in Ray Milner’s memory.

Mrs. Milner passed away in her home at "Long Distance" on November 5, 1998.

In Veronica's Garden, the Social history of the Milner Gardens and Woodland by Margaret Cadwaladr is available at the garden Gift Shop, or by email at